Fox Rothschild’s New Jersey Family Law Legal Blog welcomes Kelly Sutliff, MA, LPC, NCC, a licensed professional counselor with Kelly Sutliff, LPC, located in Madison, New Jersey, as a guest blogger.
Having known Kelly for over ten (10) years and speaking at length with her about the trauma that many children suffer through as a result of divorce, I thought it would be helpful for readers to hear about the mental and emotional impact of this process from a mental health professional. Below is an excerpt from a piece written by Kelly to better help parents going through a divorce understand the impact on their child.
“It’s my fault”. “My parents don’t love me anymore”. “I lost my family”. “I’ll never see my mom/dad again”. These heartbreaking comments are commonly mentioned by children affected by divorce. Although these comments may be unrealistic, the sense of loss a child may feel as a result of his or her parents’ divorce can be overwhelming and devastating. It is important for parents to help their children to cope with the divorce as well as to seek outside professional help, if needed.
Divorce can be an emotionally traumatic experience that can have an impact on a child’s feelings of safety, security, and stability. Frequently, the stress children feel as a result of their parents’ divorce relates to the family structure changing. Children fear change and the amount of changes that follow a divorce can be overwhelming and frightening. Many children also feel a loss of attachment to one or both of their parents after a divorce. Changes in scheduling and how often they see a certain parent can cause a certain amount of distress. The fear of being abandoned is also a fear that many children of divorced families face. Often, they feel that because one parent has moved out of the “family home”, they are likely to lose the other parent at some point as well. They may blame themselves, feel unloved, and worry that they are the cause of their parents’ relationship ending. Another factor that can lead to children’s feelings of stress is hostility and fighting between parents. Arguments and tension between parents may make children feel angry, guilty, and alone. Some children feel “put in the middle” of their parents’ arguments and believe that they are being asked to choose sides. The internal struggle that these children face when feeling this way can have profound negative effects on their behavior.